Thrift-store ingenuity allows interior design students to raise funds for community organization
When Casey King, a Butte College interior design student, stumbled upon faux deer antlers at a local thrift store, she knew her room was coming together. The find very closely matched a photo she used as inspiration for her work.
She balanced a plate on the ceramic antlers, transforming them into a soap dish for the guest bathroom. King’s idea was one of the many creative visions that she and other Butte College and Chico State students came up with as they decorated a home to raise money for the North State Symphony.
The students’ four-month-long project, “Design for the Times—Going Frugal,” came to a culmination last week as the public was allowed to view the finished home and purchase most of the furnishings. It was the first time that an event of this type was done locally.
“You can make any room look great if you spend a lot of money, but it’s difficult to do it frugal,” said Deverie Jarrett, Butte College interior design instructor. “It’s a very green project because we’re not filling the landfills with more product; we’re reusing.”
Local thrift and repurposing stores, such as the Salvation Army, ARC and Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore, allowed the students to rent the furniture and household items. All told, the sale brought in an estimated $13,000. After the thrift stores are repaid, the remaining profit will go to the symphony.
The items ranged in price, from 50 cents to a couple hundred dollars. During the showcase, anyone who wanted to buy an item tore off the price tag and held onto it until the end of the event.
“Every half-million-dollar home looks great by itself,” Jarrett said. “We want to get more of a first-time-home-buyers home—a simple, basic home that anybody might choose.”
Depending on the room, the house comprised both funky and conservative styles. The family room near the front door, for example, included eclectic items such as a vibrant rainbow vase, a zebra-striped chair and a floor lamp one of the students made out of recycled water bottles. By contrast, the living room used browns and other warm colors with a more elegant touch, including a display of wine bottles and a formal dining arrangement of properly placed silverware.
Britney Stiles, a Butte College student who worked on the project, said the retro theme is very much back in style. Lime green popped up in practically every room, and became one of the main colors of the house.
Many of the 22 students worked in teams to accomplish the final product. Their tasks included coming up with design concepts, color boards, shopping for their furniture and then designing and putting the room together. Extra projects included painting, reupholstering and sewing in order to enhance the thrift-store furniture.
Stiles and her partner Anna Spanutius, also a Butte College student, were put in charge of designing a teenage girl’s room. They used a clipping from a Lowe’s catalogue as inspiration for their pink and green scheme. Neither of the women had ever had the opportunity to fully decorate a house before.
“No matter how many classes you take, you can never have the hands-on experience you get from doing this,” Stiles said. “From this we can network a little bit, and we got to meet a lot of people who can help us for our careers later.”
The women finished ahead of schedule, and then were able to help wherever they were needed in the rest of the rooms.
Aspire homes builder Tony Symmes built the home with the project in mind and allowed the students to choose many of the interior features, such as countertops, flooring and cabinets. The students also picked out all of the interior and exterior finishes. Now that the showcasing of the home is completed, the house is for sale.
The students said they hope that those who viewed the house enjoyed their frugal and inventive ideas, and are inspired to use them in their own homes.
“I hope that the community can see that they can find things at yard sales or learn that things in their house that don’t look too great can be turned into something they never thought of before,” Stiles said. “It’s fun to show the community that it’s really easy to decorate a house on a budget.”
In addition to using the antlers, King came up with other creative ideas to decorate the guest and master bathrooms, including using a chrome candleholder as a towel rack and a round air filter as a lighting fixture that illuminated the room with a red glow. She hopes her work helped people discover new, frugal ideas.
“We’ve done this with our own hands, so it is possible,” King said. “It’s not totally out there; like you might see in a magazine. They can get some ideas and realize that if you get creative and find the right resources you can make things happen even if you don’t have the money.”
Furniture and accessories that the students took on loan but decided not to use inside of the house were displayed in the garage as a “frugal boutique.” The items were also for sale.
The students acknowledged that they ran into problems along the way, including changing some of the main colors a week before the premier and having to purchase excess paint, but they were incredibly proud of the final product. Mostly, they were excited that they were able to contribute to the project and gain experience while helping a worthy organization.
“I thought it would be awesome for the hands-on experience,” King said. “It’s really hard to get that in school; you can only do so much in the classroom. But to actually have this house, come up with an idea, and then see the finished product is just so exciting.”